Hardcore Henry (2015)

Back in 1947, Robert Montgomery directed his version of the Phillip Marlowe story, The Lady in the Lake, using a point of view camera to stand in for Marlowe (he plays the detective in the few shots where his face is visible).  It’s an interesting experiment, but not a classic.  It’s an intriguing gimmick at first, but the idea wears thin long before the movie is over.

In fact, Orson Welles planned a P.O.V. camera version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in which he would play both the unseen narrator, and Kurtz, the man he is looking for.  I suppose it is one of those ideas which sounds exciting to a filmmaker trying to make something distinctive…or perhaps which plays to some notion of intimacy or of drawing the viewer in.  But in reality, it tends towards very static setups, where the camera sees everything from the same restricted viewpoint.

I would have said it doesn’t ever work.

But I can be wrong.

Hardcore Henry is basically insane.  It starts with a “This is significant” flashback of a boy throwing a toy robot and smashing it, then with Henry waking up as a cyborg, with no memory of what happened to him.

He is awakened by his wife, but before he learns what has happened to him, soldiers attack and he flees, dropping out of the sky in an escape pod.  Most of the remainder of the film is an endless series of chases, shootouts, extreme stunts and violence.  He’s aided by the mysterious “Jimmy”(Sharlto Copley in a singularly manic and inventive role), who appears in all sorts of strange disguises and personas and dies repeatedly: and pursued by the evil Akan, who appears to have some sort of telekinetic or magnetic powers.

Along the way, things happen so fast, and the enhanced Henry is capable of so many truly wicked feats that the film never ever becomes static in any sense:  we are as likely to see things from the perspective of someone flying through the air, or crawling, or climbing up the side of a building, or being knocked sideways by some oversized thug.

Maybe there’s more to it than that, but not that much more.  It is all done with enormous wit, a lot of unexpected laughs (the TWO women pushing baby carriages is hysterical) and a sharp, satiric eye at both the first person shooter games it resembles and the action movie itself.

I tend to agree with those who think it is unnecessarily violent – and would also agree that some of the gore is far too extreme.  But this doesn’t take away too much from this manic and inventive film.  Just don’t bring the kids, that’s all.

And yes, it is mindless entertainment.  But it is rare to see it done so well – or so strangely.

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